You’re feeling guilty about something right now, aren’t you?
It’s because you said “no” to that wedding invite from Sally in marketing.
It’s that uncomfortable 7-second hesitation that came up when your friend unexpectedly asked if you liked her new boyfriend (no, you really don’t and can’t really put your finger on why).
It’s not agreeing to do a friend a favour because you’re feeling stretched thin and need to put yourself first right now.
Whatever the source, the guilt’s eating away at you because you’re obviously an ungrateful, insensitive asshole, right?
Real friends show support for their friend’s new relationships no matter what.
And people that other people like say “yes” because it’s the ‘nice’ thing to do.
First off: You don’t owe anyone a damn thing, at least not at the expense of your well-being and integrity.
If you think you do, then we need to sit down and have a chat, my friend.
Also, welcome to my world.
Secondly: As a habitual people-pleaser who’s still in recovery, I can tell you this: It’s not an easy road to The Land Of Less Guilt, but the peace of mind at the end of it is so worth the effort.
I’ve seen (and felt) the light, but I’ve also had patches regression that’ve triggered some serious bouts anxiety.
So if your conscience is feeling a little heavy from shouldering all the guilt you’ve been entertaining lately, you’re in the right place.
To start with, here are 7 things you need to give yourself permission to stop feeling guilty about, right now:
1. Your emotions
As a society, we seem to have a deep-seated aversion to seeing other people’s emotions out in the open.
If it’s a woman showing how she feels, she’s just being ‘emotional’. If it’s a man, he’s just being….well, crazy. Either way, we throw insulting judgements their way: “She’s probably having her period” or “He’s so flustered and irrational”.
It’s funny how we find this find this human capability to ‘feel’ unacceptable, off-putting even, when it should be looked at as a means of experiencing life thoroughly and deeply.
Emotions are also a powerful form of communication that allows you to see another person’s point of view with colour, depth and empathy — gifts that striving to go about life with a permanent poker face never will.
You’re a human being, not a robot, so stop feeling guilty about the emotions you’re experiencing, and showing them.
Instead, start getting smarter about making sure your emotions don’t control you, and learn how to use them to sharpen your ability to make better life decisions.
2. Being honest
Without honesty, healthy relationships wouldn’t exist.
Just ask anyone who’s been lied to, kept in the dark or cheated on.
Sure, we choose to tell little white lies now and then, especially when spilling the cold, hard truth wouldn’t be kind, but if you’re shying away from admitting to difficult (and often painful) truths, you’re doing yourself and the people in your life a huge disservice.
Sometimes, avoiding the truth means you’ll leave a trail of trauma and chaos in your wake.
And let’s be honest (pun fully intended), if you’re having trouble aligning your body and mind with reality, you’ll also be closing yourself off from experiences, relationships and opportunities that could change your life for the better.
3. Having boundaries
Not everyone you meet should earn the right to your time, energy, money or even respect.
But among those who do, how do you decide how far you’ll go for someone who wants or needs more and more from you?
Obviously, there’s no cookie-cutter answer that’ll work for everyone, so I’ll share what my gut tells me when I feel pressured to devote a significant amount of my resources to something or someone: If it’s outside of a loving, respectful, trust- and honesty-driven relationship, and I’m not crazy about the prospect of saying “yes”, I tend to say “no”.
I still struggle with guilt when I do this, but at the end of the day, I’d rather do what’s right for me than harbour anger and resentment over something that’s not.
The relationship you’ve been in for the past 5 years is making you miserable.
You’re losing sleep, feeling anxious and drinking more than ever because of your toxic work environment.
Your friend of 15 years has been tearing you down instead of building you up, and you’ve finally had enough.
Stop feeling guilty about leaving people, places and situations that chip away at your self-worth, destroy your happiness and stunt your growth.
You owe it to yourself to keep walking towards the good, and never resigning yourself to staying stuck in the bad.
When was the last time you failed at something?
If you can think of a failure that you’ve experienced recently, good. It means you’ve been trying, and hopefully, learning from your mistakes.
It means that you’ve been venturing out of your comfort zone, hoping, doing, falling and getting back on your feet, over and over again.
That’s pretty much life.
And if someone’s making you feel bad about falling down, it’s a sign that they’re failing at life.
6. Not being a workaholic
If you’ve spent any amount of time in a typical corporate environment, you probably would’ve had a taste of the ‘overwork’ culture.
It’s largely an unspoken expectation, and one that goes a little like this: If you’re not the first one in and the last one out every single day, working yourself into the ground, you’re just plain lazy or uncommitted to your job.
The problem with this working culture standard is that more time spent working doesn’t necessarily lead to better results and it’s been proven that embracing this way of working can cost you your well-being, relationships and even your life.
Just ask the Japanese, who’ve come up with a name for those who die from overworking:
And as a reformed workaholic who used to rack up 16-hour days regularly and had a nervous breakdown because of it, here’s my advice: Slow down. Make it your mission to work smarter with purpose rather than working longer. Work for a living, but don’t forget to live.
7. Needing a break
The kids. The job. The rules. The relentless rat race. The dieting. The ‘go-big-or-go-home’ mentality. The impossible expectations. The bad traffic. The betrayals. Keeping up with the Joneses. Looking the part. Putting up the brave, happy face day after day. Trying to make everyone happy. Not getting the sleep you need. Trying to be perfect.
Now, just the thought of waking up and facing the world makes your body, mind and spirit feel heavy like lead.
All you want to do is run in the opposite direction. You want to remember what it feels like to be spontaneous, carefree, unencumbered.
So do it.
You can call this ‘break’ anything you want: A sabbatical, holiday or even a mini retirement, as Tim Ferriss would.
Your life will still be there when you get back, but this lifetime is the only one you’ve got.
This post was originally published on michelelian.com